Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

Bluehost has changed significantly since we started in December of 2003. I have learned a lot since that time. Many business decisions we made were spot on and we were rewarded for those good decisions. However, other decisions turned out badly for us and made us look bad to our customers. I decided I would list some of the good and bad decisions (In no particular order) since our inception and see what you, the customer, think about it.

GOOD – Decided to primarily have a single hosting option (One plan) – This was a very good decision on our part. We have always tried to give the very most we possibly could to the customer for the price. Getting rid of the multiple hosting choices greatly reduced customer confusion and helped fuel our growth.

BAD – Not offering 24/7 support soon enough. Bluehost was going for over a year before we started offering real 24/7 support and support on Sundays. We have a significant customer base outside the US, and not giving them a valid support route 24/7 cost us sales, and customer satisfaction. Of course we now offer 24/7 email, chat, and phone support.

GOOD – Made the decision to never outsource any part of our business. This one decision has had an enormous impact in our success. Hosting is a cutthroat business and every dime matters, but to make money long term the customer HAS to be happy. Outsourcing in a business like hosting shows shorts term financial gains, but is a recipe for disaster in my opinion. Outsourced support is NEVER as good as quality in house support engineers, and customers WILL vote with their dollars for a company that strives to offer qualified, trained support staff.

BAD – Relied heavily on Godaddy (Wildwestdomains) to take care of our domain sales to go along with our hosting business. This is a crucial part of our business and as time went by it was clear we had to manage and integrate this as tightly as possible to solve our customer issues. We are now our own Icann accredited registrar, and have long since washed our hands of the gross incompetence that plagued Godaddy.

GOOD – We build our own servers and put them in our own datacenter, along with our own bandwidth. None of these resources are shared with other companies and the benefits are real and substantial. Almost no hosting company of a decent size that I know of custom builds their own servers. I come from a very knowledgeable background in computer hardware and design each server in use at Bluehost. This allows us to mitigate much of the hardware problems that plague other hosts because they can use only what is offered in the datacenter that they rent space in. The cost saving is also quite substantial as I speak Mandarin Chinese and can negotiate pretty good deals for our parts that go into our servers.

BAD – Didn’t organize business fast enough to accommodate our explosive growth. Often times, we found ourselves behind the curve because we grew too quickly. A little more forethought on our part could have helped to alleviate these issues and helped us grow at a more accelerated rate than what we currently enjoy. Good project management and follow through with projects can really free up management to take the business where it needs to go.

GOOD – We wrote from scatch our entire signup, billing, affiliate, customer relationship, and server provisioning and monitoring software. I can say with confidence that there isn’t another Cpanel host on the planet that is as efficient as we are on a large scale because of the monumental effort we have put into having our own system that lets us address and automate issue resolutions that other hosts continually have to deal with manually. The importance of this component can’t be understated!

Well, there you have it. The good and the bad! The list could go on forever, but this is only a blog entry after all. I would be interested in your comments about this particular entry because what I have listed above affects our customer base directly.

Thanks,
Matt Heaton / President Bluehost.com

31 Responses to “Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…”

  1. Hey Matt, neat list of the good bad. Thanks for the insight into your trials and tribulations.

    I’ll vouch for your efficient cPanel…

    A little while back when I was adminstrating a few different websites — each hosted with different companies — Bluehost was always the first to have updated Fantastico scripts installed… way ahead of the others.

    Other cPanels I was working with was several versions behind for many of their install scripts. It seems that other hosts out there couldn’t be bothered to keep their cPanel updated.

    Now you just need to keep your affiliate banner ads updated… :P

    Cheers!

  2. Wes says:

    When I was new to hosting and running a website, I quite liked the idea that BlueHost had just one plan and that made the decision very easy for me. I have since published a few other websites but I remember those initial steps.

    I also think that you made a good decision not to outsource. Outsourcing works well when you dont have direct contact with customers but if you have direct contact with your customers its better to do things in-house and that way you are able to respond to customer queries fairly quickly.

    I like the 24/7 suppport because I live in a totally different timezone and the 24/7 support means I can get support in hours that suit me.

  3. Christian says:

    Following this blog for longer (as a future costumer to see how Bluehost works) I have to say honesty pays off!

  4. Jay R. Wren says:

    Hi Matt,

    Interesting to hear about your custom servers. I wonder, what makes them different from an off the shelf HP or DELL server?

    Thanks for ditching GoDaddy. I just transfered a domain from GoDaddy to you. The process went great once I found the hidden transfer auth code in GoDaddy’s site. GoDaddy’s EULA for domains bought through them is unacceptable. Thank you for providing a good alternative.

  5. Hey Matt, thanks for sharing the list of Good and Bad. I learned more about hosting again.
    (ps :I was surprised that you can speak Mandarin.)

    Xia Xia.

  6. I hope that on your list of upcoming upgrades is the increase of mySQL databases being offered to your clients. Without that we cannot use all your other upgrades. We are an oscommerce web design company and need the mySQL databases for our sites. Denise

  7. Jim Kane says:

    Your good decisions are *exactly* the reasons that I refer clients to BlueHost today …and your being forthright about BAD decisions is exactly why I cut you some slack when things aren’t perfect.

    All the best,

    Jim

  8. LJCohen says:

    Thank you for posting this. It gives me greater confidence in Bluehost knowing that you don’t outsource and you maintain your own servers. I know several individuals and organizations that lost money and access to their sites when jatol disintegrated.

    Best regards,
    ljc

  9. Dave M. says:

    Can I add a trivial annoyance (the only annoying thing I can think of…)?

    The auto BlueHost favicon. If you don’t have a favicon set up on your site it defaults to the BH logo. If you delete it, the favicon magically reappears.

    I should note that I am not sure it even still does this. It has been months since I have worked with any of my sites.

  10. Thanks for the insight into Bluehost, don’t feel too bad about the problems when dealing with a growth spurt, I’ve been with a few hosts that have gone through the same thing, and thus far Bluehost has handled it better than any other host I’ve used.

  11. Dee says:

    Reading this blog today totally sold it for me (I had been on the fence for a long time ’bout being a customer). To know that you are concerned about the good and the bad of your services to a customer, leaves me reassured that you will always ensure that you work hard to please me (as a customer).

    I will sign up immediately, and I’m optimistic that I will begin to refer other people pretty soon.

    Great Job CEO, honesty does really pay off.

  12. SEO says:

    Anyone who is still deciding on a hosting company should look no further. Bluehost is the BEST hosting hands down. Services are fantastic and panel is easy to use. We have been through several hosting companies and none has even come close to Bluehost.com. Remember your hosting provider has a lot to do with your rankings.

    5 stars!!!!

  13. Scott says:

    Hi,

    You mentioned being your own Icann accredited registrar. This sounds really cool. Having this accreditation can increase client trust.

    I checked out the web site for Icann accredited registrars:
    http://www.icann.org/registrars/accredited-list.html
    http://www.icann.org/registrars/accreditation-qualified-list.html

    Which one is for BlueHost?

    -cheers

    Scott

  14. Hey Matt,
    Besides all i beleive that bluehost has improved lot, and offer now some better plans, and a nice support.

    Good job

  15. Stash Turk says:

    Hey Matt, 1 thing I always hated about bluehost is the frontpage design. It’s very unappealing. With the new CPanel and your apparent interest in customer friendly graphics do seriously consider redesigning the frontpage it does need a overhaul.

    Stash.

  16. Mike Soh says:

    I must say that I’ve been pleased by the service and responsiveness of bluehost.com. I’ve been a customer now for three years and I’m glad I’m still here. I love the fact that you guys use Linux instead of Windows servers.

  17. Michael says:

    I’ve always liked the idea that I’m getting the best and most powerful plan ever, even though my site doesn’t even smudge the amount of resources I have available.

    Another good decision BlueHost has made is to keep excellent communication with the customers. Features such as the Live Chat or even just a timely response to a support ticket keeps people well informed and happy. A lot of customers want to know every detail about their sites, even if it’s down to a server going to be down for 5 min or something. Having everything working and as it should be is good, but what’s next as good is a company who will admit to when something is wrong, or where they made a bad decision.

  18. Jamisson says:

    Great post. As an executive myself, I can understand the trade-offs you are dealing with. I made the decision to switch to bluehost.com after reading your blog. Nothing is every perfect, but it is good to hear that you’re learning as you go and making the right decisions for the future. Keep it up (since I am now a customer…).
    I wanted to add that you might want to post or take a look out at some of the “reviews” that were written about bluehost from 2004 or so. They’re pretty negative and don’t seem to reflect my interactions at all.

  19. Olivier says:

    Honesty does pay off, and I think that is one of the reasons why you’re getting such tremendous reviews. I’ve been with BH for about 2 years now and I must say I am impressed!

    Chapeau!

  20. Hi Matt, I follow your blog because I think you give very good information and you share good tips also. I like the way you share information with your clients, i agree with these “open door” bussines policy.

    About your post, i have to ask you something about your support policy, something all the people who run a hosting bussines (and customers also) have to deal every day, how do you manage to be in a “balance” between quality and speed of the service your support team deliver?

    Thank you again for sharing yours experiences with all of us.

    Regards

    Roy

  21. Daniel says:

    First time I write, and I have to say that I’ve reading your blog almost from the beginning. I’m really happy with BH and have recommended it to several friends. One thing that I think needs improving, and kinda relates to the fact that you build and maintain your own servers, is that whenever there is a server upgrade, or some sort of maintenance in a box, it should be broadcasted via the cpanel of the user located in that box. At the moment, all we can do if our website is unresponsive is to go to the serverstatus.bluehost.com page and check on the box, but it appears that even when I’m being told over the phone that the box is under maintenance upgrades, that the serverstatus shows all “OK”… so there is some disconnect there. The obvious problem is that if you are completely shut out of the cpanel, you don’t get the message, so I guess the serverstatus page needs to be more accurate.
    Please take this as a suggestion, I honestly think you guys are doing a great job!

  22. Tim says:

    I don’t normally do this, however I must say Bluehost has been fantastic for my web needs. I’ve used other companies for hosting and NEVER had the success I feel with Bluehost. It’s nice to see you have the pros and cons to your business. It makes a customer feel good that you’re aware of good or bad decisions made and are honest to show where there’s strengths and weaknesses. But that’s how we all learn in life to only make ourselves better. Thank you for your existence, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else!

  23. Chris says:

    Matt, one thing I have always liked about bluhost is that when you had problems, you would send out a communiqué that there was a problem and you was working on it. You are a very honest business man, and as long as you follow in your own foot steps, you will always have the loyalty of people like me.

    Trying to keep 300,000 people happy is difficult. I hope you can keep up the good work.

    I used to be with another provider, when I was having problems with them is when I found you. I have recently transferred my last client to your servers. (the other guys kept saying, “it’s not our problem, its working fine here” when they definitely had a problem, and they knew it. The last tech I talked to told me that was SOP, she was quitting the next day.
    Anyways, kudos.
    Chris.

  24. M says:

    I agree with you regarding the not outsourcing any part of the business. We have outsourced and had a quick road to implementation, but have run into a long list of migration issues when we are ready support the product or platform and lack of billing control.

    However, you still need work on your tech support. Some are ok, but many are not and seem aloof in their responses. I’ve been a customer for years and now I’m forced to investigate other options since now I’m starting to prepare to invest and can’t worry that when problems arise, the problem will be fixed.

    For the starter and hobby developer I think you are good choice, but when compared with 1and1 or Register.com, you have alot of work to do.
    Good Luck

  25. Nathan Howe says:

    Your “GOOD” column is exactly why I’ve stayed with Bluehost, and I am especially a fan of the new control panel. I think it’s important for companies like yours to realize that the more you enable the customer to do, the less you have to pay techs to fix. In my estimation, you do that well. Thanks.

  26. Rick says:

    I’m glad you take an active interest in building your own servers. As another hardware nut I was obsessive about what went into my main rig at home and, as a result, it still out-benchmarks most off-the-shelf PCs even though it is 2 years old now.

    While I understand your decision to only offer a single hosting solution I would (again!) encourage you to at least consider alternatives. With your track record and customer base I’m sure a transition to VPS/dedicated packages would be worthwhile.

  27. Angel says:

    Hi Matt

    I have an excelent experience with bluehost, maybe one point could be improved it`s the mail service, a little more it`s not too bad.

  28. Marisa says:

    Having spent 7 years in tech support/customer service, I can tell you that your own support is second to none. You’ve got a great tech support team and I’ve never been disappointed after a call to them. That is a huge reason why I’ve recommended others sign up with Bluehost.

  29. Matt… I’ve known you for a good while now.
    It amazes me how fast this company has grown.
    It seems like yesterday it was still at 100,000.
    Now you’re well over 300,000 customers and
    growing. You say good and bad… but I say its all
    good. At least you care enough to actually fix
    the bad decisions you’ve made. I’ve never seen
    any other company care about its customers
    that much. Unlike other companies (Mediacom),
    you dont take the customers money and run.
    You give us waaaay more than we pay for.
    I will continue to be a Bluehost customer and
    spread the word about you as I always have.
    Thanks for such a great service man.
    Take it easy bud.

    – Chris Fennell

  30. thali says:

    Dear Matt,
    After reading about the good and the bad decisions I’ve fallen deeply in love with you!!! Wow, awe!! And, it’s inspiring isn’t it. . . . . to know that most bad decisions had to do with you being able to do it better. And you do Matt, you do this website hosting with such grace and efficiency, and love that it shows up, and it makes me feel good.

    How is it possible? It just is matt,
    and thank you,
    thalia

  31. Josh says:

    I used bluehost in the past, and will probably use you again, except I have one major problem – bluehost’s policy of temporarily shutting down sites when they go over the CPU limit. I know dozens of people who have left bluehost after getting the dreaded CPU limit exceeded message. All of these people would have been willing to pay extra for something that throttled the CPU, but didn’t shutdown their sites.

    For me, every other time I backed up my mid-sized blog I received the CPU error. When I called support, they offered no solution other than tuning PHP (even though my backup routine didn’t even use PHP, it was just a simple copy command). I’m about to start a new blog, and really worried that I might run into the same problem …

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